“Everything Everywhere All at Once” changes lives, in this universe and in all the others
Neta Bar is a second-year business administration student and opinion columnist for Mustang News. His opinions reflected in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
With “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, studio A24 has proven that it has its finger on the pulse of today’s world and has expanded its target audience while simultaneously focusing on stories that will satisfy unique needs of these new eyes. . In other words, this film has something for everyone, without sacrificing the storytelling integrity that A24 flawlessly presents.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a multi-faceted film, with layers ranging from existential philosophical commentary to Pixar-esque unapologetic comfort. In a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style, the audience is given everything they can ask for – the viewer just has to choose which theme to go with.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is stylistically individualistic and thematically distinct. However, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the cinematic parallels found in both plot and delivery. We see an experimental approach to philosophical commentary as the film grapples with existentialist themes and the swaying line between nihilism and the absurd. In this way, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” could be compared to a wholesome fusion of the feel-good optimism of Pixar’s “Soul” and the harrowing experience that is Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York.” . That is to say, this film is one of optimistic nihilism, with a simple but poignant result: nothing matters, everything counts.
And with that, the aforementioned “choose your own adventure” kicks in. A movie buff might leave the film with a disheartening pessimism, that happiness can only be fleeting and that each of us is extraordinarily small and helpless in the face of the nature of the world. However, another might leave this cinematic experience with more hope than when they entered it. Joy may be hard to find, but it is everything and it is everywhere.
The film’s climax highlights exactly that. As Evelyn defuses the violent crowd by battling the fire with a fire extinguisher –– connecting each individual to their respective pleasure –– the film visually demonstrates that no joy is too weird or too mundane. The blind rage the crowd exudes obviously comes from a place not just of sadness, but of confusion. Such a feeling of total loss occurs and with no way to cope, so we turn to the armor that is apathy, isolation and, most effective of all, anger.
The “choose your own adventure” comes at another crossroads as the film expands the desirability of the theme of depression, should the viewer choose to interpret it that way. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” hits closest to home at this point, especially when Joy tries to make her mother understand the incurable despair and pain she endures at almost every moment of the day. She desperately needs someone not to fix it or remove it, but at the very least, that they understand. She wants someone to share in the darkness, comically personified by the Everything Bagel, that afflicts every facet of her life, good and bad.
The film is serious in this depiction of depression while successfully avoiding being cliché. Instead, there’s a visceral sense of painful understanding and reassurance that countless moviegoers have desperately needed.
This film graciously leaves the freedom of choice to the viewer. Not so much in the sense of a cinematic interpretation, as each theme can be quite easily inferred, but rather, one can choose how hopeful they come away and how much they see a reflection of their own psychological afflictions. They can choose to let Joy and Evelyn’s silence like rocks in a different universe be a moment of healing peace or a moment of powerful introspection. Nonetheless, one common denominator remains consistent: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a thought-provoking, potentially life-changing work of art, if the viewer allows it.